In May, 4 friends, Dre, Amy, Devon, Cody, and I traveled to Kalymnos, Greece for a 3 week rock climbing trip. Kalymnos is part of the island chain Dodecanese, located in the Aegean Sea right off the coast of Turkey. Kalymnos is a well known destination for rock climbers. I’d heard of the place before, but thought it might be overrated or something. To me it just seemed like a place people go to get cool pictures. Even with my assumptions, it obviously wasn’t very hard to convince me to go.
One evening, back in I think December, as the 5 of us were hanging out, Amy and Dre were talking about a trip they had previously taken to Kalymnos. Somehow we started joking about the 5 of us flying out there together after the ski season ended. We were stoked on climbing, but also excited for the already happening ski season. Snowboarding is what brought most of us out to Vail anyway. We had a full winter of working and powder days to look forward to. How could we plan for a trip like this and train for climbing during this very busy season? Turns out our joke quickly turned into something a little more serious…. So we had to get a little more serious.
Once the New Year hit, we all made the decision we’d actually do it! Winter in Vail is the time to make money. Most people work 2 or 3 jobs at a time out here. All of us were working constantly with different schedules so it was hard to meet up consistently for the planning and organizing of our trip. Climbing outside for those 5 months wasn’t really an option. Most days it was either dumping snow or simply just too cold. We had to make sure to keep each other motivated to train and workout inside. As the months went by we eventually booked our Airbnb, bought flights, and worked the logistics out the best we could.
After a fun and busy winter season, May finally came, and we were on our way to Europe! We all met up at the Gatwick airport in London and flew to Kos, Greece together. To get to Kalymnos, you have to catch a ferry from the Greek Island, Kos. Our plan was to stay one night in Kos by the port and wake up the next morning to catch the ferry. It was 10pm when our flight landed in Kos and we realized we booked a room at the wrong port. Unplanned things happen while traveling so we just had to pay a little more than expected for the taxis to get to our booked hotel. In the morning, after waking up to the most beautiful sunrise over the Aegean Sea, we packed up, got in taxis, and arrived at the Mastichari Port (the correct port) to catch our ferry to Kalymnos.
The ferry didn’t take more than 30 minutes to get to Kalymnos. Once there, we split up the crew. Amy and Cody went to the Airbnb on the other side of the island with all our baggage, and Dre, Devon and I took a taxi into Masouri, the main tourist climbers’ town. In town we put down about 550 Euros for 3 scooters to use for those 3 weeks. We picked up the scooters, went on a quick grocery run, and drove to the Airbnb to meet up with the other two.
Our Airbnb was in a part of the island called Arganonta, about a 10 minute drive from Masouri. For the 3 weeks, it only cost us about $250 each to rent out the house. Once we were all back together at the house, we thought we’d get out and climb. We were all pretty jet lagged and sluggish from traveling, but it was only noon and we weren’t going to waste any of our precious days by not climbing! After all, we could see climbers from our front porch so we were really itching to get out on the walls too.
Fast forward several days and you’d find us dropping out real fast. It turns out climbing every single day for almost a week will wear you down. Our bodies forced us to take this first rest day. The weather was pretty great almost every day so it never required us to stay inside and not climb. We realized we HAD to rest when we got out to the crag one morning and couldn’t even finish a warm up climb. Our fingers, our arms, our backs, our everything was sore!
Something I didn’t plan or think of too far ahead was what I’d do on rest days. I was on a climbing trip. I was there to climb. Our Airbnb didn’t have Wi-Fi either so we had to get creative when we were home. Collectively, there was a lot of reading, Sudoku, chess playing, and stretching. The 5 of us took a couple rest days together before our bodies were on different resting schedules.
For one of our rest days we drove the scooters across the island to Vathy. Vathy isn’t a very big town, but there’s an area you can deep water solo and cliff jump. When we parked the scooters some guys at a restaurant approached us. They said we could get a free boat ride to the deep water solo spot in exchange for us to eat at their restaurant when we returned. What a business strategy! We happily agreed and hopped on the boat. The boat ride was only like 5 minutes. They dropped us off, and we told them to pick us up in about 3 hours.
3 hours was about an hour longer than we needed. We almost felt stranded waiting for the boat to come back and retrieve us. You can only hang out at a cliff for so long before you run out of things you want to do. We jumped off the cliff countless times, but only Devon attempted climbing the deep water solo routes. The rest of us took advantage of our rest day by not climbing. (Devon definitely paid for it the next day by being totally exhausted and taking another full rest day while the other 4 of us climbed.) I spent most of my time at the cliff attempting a back flip. After maybe an hour of me trying but getting too scared, we could see the boat coming back early bringing more people to the cliff. We decided to hop on and get taken back to the restaurant.
2 weeks into the trip we realized there was a great beach close by in Masouri to swim, slackline, relax and drink pina coladas at. This was a game changer!
We came back to this beach during one other rest day. After a couple hours of lounging and relaxing, one of the guys bought a soccer ball so we started kicking it around for something to do. About 10 minutes in, we got in trouble for getting beach chairs dirty and were told to stop. That ruined our fun so Cody, Devon, and I decided to leave to the grocery store to pick up things for dinner. Dre and Amy stayed at the beach and would meet up with us at the house later. Turns out it was Sunday, and all the main grocery stores were closed. It never failed, I’m pretty sure we tried going to the store every Sunday. Somehow we never learned!
Since that plan didn’t work out, we decided we’d drive over and explore Pothia, the main port town the ferry dropped us off at on day 1. Our leisurely drive into Pothia quickly shifted gears. Cody and I were on one scooter, and Devon was driving behind us on another one. Devon’s scooter ended up breaking down on our way there. This added over an hour to our joy ride. Cody and I first had to find Devon who was no longer following right behind us. Once we found Devon, Cody and I had to drive the working scooter all the way back to the scooter shop in Masouri. We talked to the guy working, and his dad, the shop owner, was going to come meet us at the broke down scooter. After driving back to Devon, we waited about 20 more minutes, but the guy never showed up. We decided we should get help. Right by us there were some people sitting outside on their porch. I asked if they could help call the company again and give them better directions. I guess our location wasn’t communicated clearly the first time, and the guy was on the other side of the Island looking for us. The friendly locals helped, and we eventually got in contact with the guy. He showed up within 15 minutes.
After getting the scooter repaired, we still proceeded to drive into Pothia. We kind of forgot to tell Dre and Amy what we were doing. None of us had service on our phones so we had to rely on Wi-Fi if we wanted to get in touch with each other. We drove all around Pothia, up the mountain, walked around the Port, and didn’t get back home until about 9 at night. Dre and Amy, who hadn’t heard from us in probably 6 hours, got worried and started asking people around town if they’d seen us. Right as we found Wi-Fi and contacted Dre and Amy, the police were about to be called. Thankfully we got ahold of our friends before a full blown search party broke out. Moral of this story; communicate! It'll save friendships!
Driving through Pothia
One thing I do miss are all the goats. I don’t necessarily miss navigating around goat poop, but I miss seeing and hearing those silly creatures at every crag. The island is covered in goats. They would be right in the middle of the road sometimes so we’d have to be careful and aware as we turned corners on our scooters.
One day as we were hiking up to a crag, a goat was standing close to the trail. Cody said something like, “I bet you won’t pet that goat.” I responded with, “There is no way I’m touching this goat, it’s clearly a mom goat.” We carry on and walk passed it. Right then the goat walks over and nudges me like a cat. I quickly give in and rub and scratch its head as if it’s my pet. It was definitely enjoying this attention. Amy proceeded in joining me in the goat petting. About a minute later the goat decided enough was enough and gave me a little more of an aggressive nudge telling me to go away. Hours later the goat found us again, climbed up the rock, took shelter in some shade, and fell asleep. Meanwhile, her 3 babies were crying and yelling for her in the sun across the crag.
Mother Goat trying to Relax
We saved our last full day in Kalymnos for the Sikati Cave. To get to the cave we had to first drive the scooters over a steep mountains pass, then hike 40 minutes in, and finally down climb very carefully into the cave. Right before starting the down climb, I found the container of salad had opened in my bag. So for the entire day all my things had a coating of olive oil and feta cheese on them. Not exactly what you want to add to a very sweaty, hot, humid day in a cave. Despite everything smelling like cheese, this day was one of the most memorable for me. Probably the coolest route of the trip was in there. What made it so cool was the body sized hole you could squeeze into 3/4th of the way up the climb. If I ever go back to Kalymnos, I’d love to get back on it and actually send the route! Since this cave is a further hike away than most of the crags in Kalymnos, we basically had the place to ourselves. There was only one other group in the cave, and they left a couple hours after we got there. It was pretty common for most of the crags to be saturated with climbers, so this was a nice change to end the trip with. Once you leave the cave, there is a conveniently located beach just a 5 minute walk down the path. We may or may not have taken advantage of this completely empty, secluded beach…
Our trip to Kalymnos surpassed my expectations. The kindness of the locals is beyond what I imagined. The crystal clear water, the food, the views; it really is an island paradise. The entire island is surrounded by and made up of rock. It was hard to wrap my brain around the sights; almost like it felt to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. This was also my first time climbing on tufas. Tufa climbing is like none other. It’s gymnastic, 3 dimensional rock climbing. You get to move and use your body in such interesting ways. Kalymnos is somewhere I would love to go back to. We were on the island for 3 weeks, but barely scratched the surface of the climbing possibilities out there.
Below are a few videos Devon and Dre made from our trip too. If you haven't seen them yet, give them a watch. If you have seen them, give them another watch!